A Sense of Calling for Life
by Virginia Knowles
One big goal of home schooling is to prepare our children for their role in the adult community as they move into the working world. This is not just an academic exercise in career planning, but a matter of the heart. You see, God has designed each one of us for a special spot in the scheme of history. At each season of life, he places us where our unique gifts and abilities can be developed and put to productive use. At times, it seems like our talents are hidden away, but he brings out each one of his treasures as he has need of them.
The saga of Joseph in Genesis 37-50, illustrates this concept beautifully. From Joseph's teen years, God gave him grand dreams for his life -- dreams which made his older brothers so intensely jealous that they sold him into slavery. From there he bounced back and forth between servitude and power. He was ultimately appointed second-in-command of Egypt, in charge of stewarding the nation through seven years of famine. Later, when Joseph had both excuse and opportunity for retribution against his brothers, he realized that though they had intended to harm him, it was all part of God's perfect plan. The Lord fulfilled the calling over a period of twenty years, even when Joseph was oppressed and “forgotten.” His purpose was not just to turn Joseph from a shepherd boy into a powerful ruler, or even to spare Egypt and the surrounding nations from starvation. These events ultimately played crucial part in Jehovah's redemptive plan for all nations in history through the earthly lineage of the Messiah. He also has a destiny for each of us which interlocks with his eternal agenda! He doesn't reveal the details all at once, but neither does he leave us clueless about where we fit in. He expects us to faithfully use the gifts he has given:
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8
Do your children have any idea of what God is calling them to do in life? Are they aware of how he has endowed them with gifts and talents to be used for his service? Do they have any inkling of how to use their spiritual influence to impact the nations for Christ? Not only do we have spiritual gifts, we also have “secular” talents which can be used for God's glory. He has equipped artists, engineers, nurses, car mechanics, chefs, linguists, inventors, receptionists, computer whizzes, bricklayers, research scientists, plumbers, authors, politicians, farmers, bookkeepers, and everyone else. What would we do without them? Where does your child fit in? What will he or she do for a living? Of course, not all of these talents will be used in a paying career. Some will be used in the family, among friends, in the church, and in the community. Perhaps we can't put a price tag on these efforts, but we can still appreciate their worth.
God's gifts and callings are not always apparent in young children, but are illuminated slowly over the years as they explore their interests and aptitudes. Often, God's direction for a person is affirmed by those who know him well. Other times, profile tests can be useful. It is important for us to be more aware of these things so we can plan a logical course of study leading to proficiency and enjoyment in the targeted occupation or ministry. In all our plans, let's seek the will of the Sovereign Lord, who can instantly change the course of our lives in very unexpected ways.
“Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'” James 4:13-15
“Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21
As we think about preparing our children for their calling in life, we can learn some lessons from the life of Hudson Taylor. I once read a biography of Hudson Taylor to my children which gave me some insight into home schooling. Hudson’s parents, James and Amelia, home schooled the children through reading aloud, dictation, grammar, French, Latin, arithmetic and plenty of heart-enriching nature study. More importantly, however, they were carefully trained in the Scriptures, having family devotions after breakfast and at afternoon tea. Next came a time of fervent prayer. James also gathered the children at bedtime for prayer with his arms around them. Then he would dismiss them to their own rooms for a time of private Bible reading, saying, “Learn to love your Bible, for God cannot lie. He cannot mislead you. He cannot fail.” Visiting preachers would delight the children with conversations about theology and missions around the family table.
This sounds like the ideal home school setting for spiritual growth, and indeed it was. However, there were some significant bumps along the way! At age 15, Hudson went to work for a bank, but unfortunately his materialistic and skeptical co-workers had a big influence on the boy. He wrestled with doubt about his childhood faith, and eventually turned away from it. Providentially, after several months, an eye disease forced him to quit his job. He sulked gloomily around the house, which irritated his father, who wasn’t aware of his son’s spiritual struggles. One day, shortly before he turned 17, he picked up a Gospel booklet in the parlor and decided he would read the story at the beginning but close it when it got to the “preachy” part. However, he read it all the way through, and was so taken by the concept of “the finished work of Christ,” that he was gripped with conviction and prayed to receive Jesus as his Savior. Unbeknownst to him, at that very moment, his mother, visiting a relative 50 miles away, was called by God to pray for the conversion of her son. She stayed on her knees in fervent intercession until she received assurance that her pleas had been answered. Hudson’s younger sister Amelia had also been praying every day for a month for her brother.
After a period of spiritual growth and local service, Hudson felt called by God to go as a missionary to China, where the Gospel was virtually unknown. He did not know until many years later that his parents had prayed, shortly before his birth, to bear a son who would bring God’s word to that very country. He did indeed! After going through medical school (while living austerely and trusting in God alone for his finances) he set sail for China. Adopting native dress and hairstyle, he was a faithful evangelist, Bible translator, doctor, and mission organizer. By the time of Hudson Taylor’s death at age 73, the China Inland Mission had recruited 800 missionaries, raised 7.5 million dollars and converted 30,000 Chinese people to Christianity.
I think this story can give hope to parents who are doing the best they can, but they have children who may or may not always “get” the message of the Christian life. Get a vision, lay the foundation, build on it wisely, and as you go, pray, pray, pray! Don’t get resentful if your child seems to reject your faith and values because that will only drive him further away. Wait and see what God can do. It could be that he doesn’t want you to depend on your efforts, but fully on his grace to save and transform your child’s life. He must get the glory!
This article is excerpted from the chapter "Aim for the Heart" in my book The Real Life Home School Mom. You can read the PDF of the book for free by accessing it from the sidebar of http://www.virginiaknowles.blogspot.com/.
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